Juan Uribe has fond memories of growing up in Holyoke and having people from the neighborhood over to his family’s house to enjoy some good Colombian food.
When he got older, he and his brother Gilberto Uribe wanted to keep that tradition going – so they opened up El Paraiso Colombiano, a family run restaurant on High Street in the city, and Producer Dave Fraser brings us the story.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Juan Uribe has fond memories of growing up in Holyoke and having people from the neighborhood over to his family’s house to enjoy some good Colombian food.
When he got older, he and his brother Gilberto wanted to keep that tradition going, so they opened up El Paraiso Colombiano, a family-run restaurant and High Street in the city, and producer Dave Fraser brings us the story.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: It was a flurry of activity on a recent Friday night in the kitchen at El Paraiso Colombiano restaurant in Holyoke, as food items were being prepared on the grill.
Other meals were being packaged and ready for pickup. The business is the only Colombian restaurant in the Paper City, according to owners Juan and Gilberto Uribe.
Juan Uribe, El Paraiso Colombiano: We love food, we love entertaining people. We love hosting people. You know, we’ve always been like that since kids. We were like the house on the block that was always full of of all the friends and they always love — will come to our house to eat.
So we, you know, we decided to, you know, make it a business.
Dave Fraser: The two brothers started the restaurant in April of this year. They grew up in Holyoke, and rely on family to help cook, clean and serve.
Gilberto Uribe, El Paraiso Colombiano: Parents came from Columbia, and they were in New York, and then they came over here in 1987. We are the only people that work here is family. Family, that’s it. Brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody.
Juan Uribe: So I have my cousin, Matthew. My father is the head chef over here, Juan Uribe Senior. We have Roti and we have Stella.
They all have their spots they work with. You know, it’s pretty tight in here, but we work as a team and we make it happen.
We decided to do it in Holyoke because, obviously we’re born and raised in Holyoke, and we can we see the potential. Holyoke has its awesome place to start a business, and I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else, to be honest.
Dave Fraser: Colombian food has some degree of Spanish influence, along with African-American and that of Indigenous People. Most Colombian meals include meat, rice and a vegetable, regardless of the time of day they are served on.
Bandeja paisa is one of the more popular items on the menu because of the amount of food presented with each serving.
Gilberto Uribe: It’s rice beans, pork, steak, sweet plantains, corn cake, sausage.
Dave Fraser: Juan Uribe Senior, is the main chef in the kitchen. He learned how to cook from his mother while growing up in Colombia. His boys are the first ones in the family to open their own business.
Juan Uribe Sr, El Paraiso Colombiano: Every time — it’s something we always want to do and I have been proud of, you know, we finally got it done. And it’s hard, but we just do it.
Dave Fraser: The dining room has traditional Colombian decor, and the brothers say that many of their regulars feel like they are back home when they come in.
Juan Uribe: We hear a lot when, when, when we have our Colombian customers come in like, “I feel like I’m back at home!” And that’s that’s what we want.
We’re sitting, standing back there and we look over here and we see a full house, it’s like, it’s like we really made it happen, you know, like, it was a dream come true.